May 17, 2008 / 8:38 AM / in 11 years

FACTBOX-Key facts about Kuwait

(Reuters) - Kuwait votes in parliamentary elections on Saturday, after its ruler dissolved parliament in March to end a standoff with the government that had stalled political life in the country.

Here are some facts about Kuwait.

GEOGRAPHY: Area is 17,818 sq km (6,879 sq miles). Kuwait is bordered by Iraq to the north and Saudi Arabia to the south, with a 225 km (140 mile) coastline on the Gulf.

CAPITAL: Kuwait City.

POPULATION - Around 3.2 million.

ETHNICITY - Kuwaitis, of Arab descent, account for around a third of the population. Immigrant workers of Egyptian, Iranian, Pakistani, Indian, Bangladeshi, Filipino and other origins make up the rest.

RELIGION - Muslims comprise around 85 percent of the population, with Sunnis accounting for around 70 percent and Shi’ites 30 percent of that. Christians and Hindus make up most of the remaining 15 percent of the population.

LANGUAGES - The official language is Arabic while English is also widely spoken.

ECONOMY - Kuwait relies on oil and gas for around half of its Gross Domestic Product. It sits on 10 percent of global oil reserves which translates into around 100 billion barrels.

— The OPEC member also enjoys high standards of living with a per capita income of $55,300 (28,246 pounds).

— Kuwait is the only Gulf Arab oil producer that does not peg its currency to the dollar. Inflation in the world’s seventh-largest oil exporter hit a record of 9.5 percent in January, the latest available figure.

SOME RECENT HISTORY:

— Kuwait gained its independence from Britain in 1961 and formed the first elected parliament in the Gulf in 1963.

— Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in Aug 1990. In Jan 1991, U.S.-led forces started the Gulf War with air strikes on Iraq and occupied Kuwait. Hostilities ended on February 28, 1991 with the eviction of Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

— Since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and U.S. calls for change in the Middle East, the ruling family has come under pressure from both Islamists and pro-Western liberals to loosen its grip and share power.

— In 2005 women in Kuwait won the right to vote and run in election for the 50-seat National Assembly but no woman was elected in the last vote.

Sources: Reuters/Alertnet/ CIA (www.cia.gov)/ Kuwait Government (www.da.gov.kw)/

Writing by Carl Bagh and David Cutler

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